A recent violent attack against a Catholic Church in the Caribbean island of St. Lucia by Rastafarians points to a more militant mood among Rasta believers, reports the Los Angeles Times (Jan. 7).
In early January, Rastafarians attacked a church in Castries, St. Lucia, torching a dozen parishioners that resulted in two deaths, and setting fire to a priest and the altar. The attack has come at a time when Rastafarians throughout the Caribbean are becoming more visible, and, some rival religious leaders say, a potentially violent social force.
Encouraged by thousand of new believers from a more rebellious generation plagued by unemployment and poverty, “Rastafarians have begun to contest elections, protest policies that have discriminated against them for decades and lobby for decriminalization of marijuana, which adherents smoke as a religious sacrament,” writes Mark Fineman.
The growth of a more militant brand of Rastafarianism, which can be found on every Caribbean island, is also seen in the new reggae music, such as the Jamaican rapper Sizzler. His incendiary incantations include references such as “Burn the Babylon, Burn down the Vatican, Burn down the pope.” Ras Ipa Isaac, an old guard Rastafarian leader in St. Lucia says that the younger members are taking symbolic images literally. Such imagery that appears to be feeding anti-Catholicism (Rastafarian teachings say Catholics had changed the Bible) can easily be applied to wider society, since white power structures are also considered “Babylon.”
These speculations have led to fears among Christians and law officials that other attacks are being planned. For their part, young Rastafarians say the new vigilance may be part of a backlash and fear new restrictions against their group.